UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Badgers top NC State to get to Elite Eight

Alando Tucker called it the "worst half of basketball'' that he had experienced at Wisconsin.

Sharif Chambliss said the Badgers just "went through the motions.''

UW coach Bo Ryan ordered his players to "slow down.''

That was the backdrop to Wisconsin's spirited second half rally against North Carolina State in the Syracuse Regional semifinals of the 2005 NCAA basketball tournament.

For 20 minutes, the No. 6 seeded Badgers looked nothing like the Sweet 16 team that had knocked off Northern Iowa and Bucknell in the first and second rounds.

They had 11 turnovers and zero assists.

They made just seven of 18 field goal attempts.

They gave up 10 points in transition to North Carolina State.

They trailed 30-21 at halftime.

"We were a little too quick,'' Bo Ryan said. "Too quick with our feet. Too quick with our minds. We were racing just a little bit too fast.''

What was said during the intermission break?

"We got into each other,'' said Chambliss, a senior guard. "There were four or five people who were throwing fists and elbows in the locker room.''

He then removed his tongue from his cheek and stressed, "I'm just joking.''

It was no laughing matter for senior Mike Wilkinson, one of the most consistent players on the team, who suffered through a miserable first half: six points, five turnovers and two fouls.

"We totally got away from how we're used to playing in the first half,'' said UW guard Clayton Hanson. "I don't know what it was but we did some things that were uncharacteristic of us.''

The Badgers returned to form in the opening five minutes of the second half.

The first basket was scored by Hanson, who knocked down the UW's first triple of the night. The execution was flawless; a sign of things to come for the Badgers in the Carrier Dome.

The ball was entered to the post and Wilkinson, who drew a double-team on the right block. Wilkinson kept his poise and kicked a pass to the top of the key and Zach Morley, who reversed the ball to the left wing and Hanson. The extra pass made the difference in getting an open look.

"In the second half,'' Ryan said, "we played the way we've tried to play all year.''

On the strength of consecutive 3-pointers from Hanson, along with one from Chambliss, and the inside play of Wilkinson and Tucker, the Badgers staggered the Wolfpack with an offensive flurry.

Tucker was virtually unstoppable, scoring eight straight points during one run.

"When I'm in a stretch like that, you just want to keep going,'' said Tucker, who sparked the UW into a 47-37 lead. "Guys kept feeding me and I was hot. When we're down, I have to pull us up.''

The Badgers shot 58 percent (14 of 24) in the second half.

Tucker finished with a game-high 22, and Wilkinson added 17.

"We had a good time in the second half,'' said Chambliss, who returned to Madison this year to be the video coordinator on Ryan's staff. "We just went out and played ball.''

Nobody had a better game defensively than Hanson, the senior from Reedsburg, who was matched against North Carolina State's marquee player, Julius Hodge, a senior from Harlem.

Hodge clearly looked frustrated at times and managed to convert on just 4-of-16 shots. Hodge's first basket came on a put-back after which he woofed, "This guy can't guard me.''

Hanson didn't back down.

Instead, he helped shut down Hodge.

"It was a team effort,'' Hanson said.

The victory over N.C. State advanced the Badgers into the Regional finals where they were eliminated by the North Carolina Tar Heels, who went on to win the national championship.

Beating the Wolfpack and getting to the Elite Eight was still a meaningful accomplishment.

Especially since the UW's 25th win matched the school record.

"The lack of respect that we have been getting all year,'' Morley said, "has really blown up in a lot of people's faces because nobody thought we'd be this successful.''

(Wednesday night, the Badgers and the Wolfpack will meet for the first time since Syracuse - and only the second time overall - as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at the Kohl Center.)